Geir Lundestad was Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute from 1990 to 2014. Now he has a book to spruik, and he’s been doing the rounds of the media, serving up the publishing business’s equivalent of supermarket tastings. For me, it’s been a bit like shopping at Costco, which - American readers will be happily aware - is a canny route to a free lunch.
In 1994 the Nobel Peace Prize went to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. The situation could easily have deteriorated into farce, but, fortunately, the three men got along. The team on the award committee didn’t gel nearly so well, with one member taking his bat and ball and storming off in protest.
The evening of the award banquet, Mr Lundestad trooped over to the Arafats’ suite to escort the couple to the do. They weren’t quite ready, and Yasser’s wife, Suha, asked Geir to wait a few minutes as he’d caught them smack bang in the midst of their favorite activity.
So Geir went into the living room to bide his time, only to find Yasser chilling on the couch, watching an episode of Tom and Jerry, his favourite cartoon. “It was made very clear that they intended to watch until the end,” Lundestad says.
And so, just as Tom met the sharp edge of Jerry’s ingenuity, no doubt much to Yasser and Suha’s delight, we meet the theme of this article. People do the most surprising things.
I was certainly surprised to learn that Bryony Worthington, professional climate and energy analyst, formerly of Friends of the Earth and current UK shadow energy minister, supports the development of a fracking industry.
“We have to be realistic. We are going to be using gas for a long time because of the huge role it plays for heating homes and for industry,” she says. To be sure, she insists development should go ahead only if emissions are captured and stored.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is the system of bagging-up carbon and forcing it into rocks underground. It’s the environmental equivalent of sweeping the dirt under the carpet, allowing the captains of carbon to go on trashing the house until they’ve wrung every last dollar from fossil fuels.
The way people talk about CCS, you’d think it a. works, b. is economically viable and c. cheaper than renewables, each of which d. ain’t true. Friends of the Earth’s director, Craig Bennett, says, “Betting everything on carbon capture and storage is highly risky… It’s increasingly looking like a pipe dream.”
I’m sure he’s right - but why should we believe him? Friends of the Earth have a serious credibility problem thanks to Bryony Worthington. Here’s a prominent environmentalist advocating massive public investment in a high-carbon future when the science is clear that most of the world’s fossil fuels must remain unburned if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. If anyone should be aware of the facts, it is the Baroness.
Is it coincidence that this is happening just as the UK government is cutting investment in renewable projects? I don’t know, but I suspect that the serious coal and gas dollars invested of late in lobbying US governments are being matched across the pond.
Perhaps the captains of carbon are playing the shadow minister for a fool, working the levers of power, discrediting the environmental movement in the process and laughing all the way to the Bahamas.
Is that paranoid? Maybe. But if Yasser Arafat would rather watch Tom and Jerry than attend the Nobel Prize banquet, I’d say pretty much anything is possible.